British economist and public servant Adair Turner has confronted some disquieting truths about economics and happiness in his new book Economics After the Crisis. In it, he attempts to explain why wealth inequalities have grown so much in the recent decades: “On the one hand, the world of stars and celebrities created a momentum towards excessive rewards untrammelled by former considerations of what was reasonable and fair. On the other hand, technology and globalization have forced down the wages of the least skilled.” As a result, Turner argues that achieving income parity may not be top priority.
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What’s the Big Idea?
While growing middle class salaries is a topical political goal, it may not be what is best for the country. Turner argues that economic growth is not the first objective, but rather an ‘acceptable consequence’ of economic freedom, i.e. an economy in which individuals are by and large allowed to pursue private ownership and profit. “For example, an expansion of leisure (which most people would regard as a good thing) might result in negative growth. Whether a healthy economy favours growth or not is an empirical question; it cannot be assumed a priori that a growing economy is a good economy.”